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Apr 7 2014   5:56PM GMT

‘Cutting the cable TV Cord’ as Much as We Can

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller

cut-the-cordOur current cable, Internet and phone bill combo package from Brighthouse costs $150 a month. This is way too much for an older couple (us) living on Social Security and part-time freelance writing and video production. We need to, as they say, ‘cut the cord,’ and get along without cable TV. No problem. We can do that. But what about Internet? We *need* Internet service to make money — and besides, most of our non-cable TV entertainment (think Netflix) comes to us via the Internet. That means complete cord severance isn’t in the cards for us. 🙁

So, Brighthouse, let’s just get rid of cable TV, but keep the Internet connection. $75 a month? That seems kind of high. And that’s for 60 Mbps down and a mere 5 Mbps up, speeds a South Korean would laugh at.

We have one other local alternative: Verizon FIOS. We had a horrible experience with them some years ago, the kind that resulted in a complaint to the FCC. I have no idea if Verizon even wants me as a customer again. (If not, we’ll use my wife’s name.)

One thing is for sure: we won’t trust Verizon with our phone service again, because that’s where the trouble was last time.

Verizon FIOS Internet service is only about $50 per month in our part of the world — for a two year contract, 50 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up, and $60 per month with no contract.
Wow! For someone like me who does lots of video conferencing and video uploading, that 25Mbps upload speed is enough to overcome a lot of past nastiness by Verizon. Again I say, Wow!

And phone service. We currently use VOIP from Brighthouse. I’m thinking, since my wife and I both have cell phones and our “landline” is now somewhat of an anachronism, we’ll go with Voipo or one of the other bottom-price VOIP providers because service outages won’t kill us as long as people can leave messages we can return later with whatever phone we choose. Voipo is $15/month, month to month, which is $10/month less than Vonage. That works for me.

antennaNow let’s talk about TV. We’re 33 miles away from the Tampa metro antenna farms (in Ruskin, FL) so we need a decent directional, amplified antenna like this one. And we need a 30′ mast to set it on. We have about 12′ of pipe up to our mobile home’s roof already, and can add 20′ (less than $20 worth of galvanized fence tubing) and be as high as we need to be. This job is a little beyond me, considering my poor health and physical condition, but I have a neighbor who can help. So that’s our TV signal, probably better than what we’ve gotten from the cable company from what I see at the homes of neighbors who use OTA (Over the Air) antennas.

One last thing: Recording and time-shifting TV. With the Glubawful amount of commercials they run these days, it’s almost impossible to watch TV in real time. So I want to be able to record, pause, and save at least two channels while watching a third real time.
I have an old computer or two we can use to run MythTV or Windows Media Center, plus I’d need to buy this, this or even this unit, which costs $200 but would eliminate the need for a separate computer. All it takes is an external hard drive, and I have a couple of those around.

So: Have you added up the equipment costs? $300, at most. And I’ll save at least $75 per month, which means my payback time is four months.

Worth it? You bet! The only other thing I might need or want to complete my cord-cutting is a Chromecast, and I already have one.

So it looks like it’s bye-bye Brighthouse within a month or two. I called them and asked if they could give me a better deal than I have now, or at least compete with Verizon on Internet-only service. They said no. So it goes, Brighthouse. Too bad we can’t afford to stay with you, but we can’t.

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  • Ben Rubenstein
    For my wife, the biggest adjustment with cord-cutting has been usability-related. For all its frustrations and high costs, the cable interface was very familiar and mostly intuitive. Now, sitting down to watch a show can take a few extra seconds, which creates some annoyance and sometimes leads to choosing the first show that Netflix or Hulu Plus suggests. I generally have no issue with Netflix, though the Hulu Plus interface leaves a lot to be desired (and our simple Roku remote doesn't make things much easier). And service on Hulu via Roku can often be slow and choppy. 

    One other note on cost - we actually found that we got a better deal by keeping basic cable rather than going internet-only. Probably Comcast's way of keeping us on the books as a cable subscriber and hoping to upsell in the future. 
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  • Robin "Roblimo" Miller
    Funny thing - our cableco's recent "upgrade" to their GUI is irritating. Not a feature likely to keep us with them. Now about Internet cost... Brighthouse, the cable company (formerly Time Warner, but spun off in this area) wants $75/month for so-so Internet service. Verizon will give us better service for $53 including taxes, etc. I'm going OTA + Internet. In a way I'm tempted to go with Tivo, but my wife no longer trusts *any* subscription services and would rather have our own dedicated PC as a media server. No big deal to do that; I have a spare desktop and a spare laptop (that may or may not work; I need to spend $8 or so for a charger to see), both of which have enough power to do the job. I'm leaning toward the desktop - newer, and lots of room alongside our TV stand. Get a dual-tuner TC card -- $50 or so on eBay -- and a video card with an HDMI output, if I don't already have one around, and away we go. Plus antenna and mast, of course...
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